06 Jul Men React: 6 Responses to the #MenAreTrash Movement
Women are under attack. Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, the news of the death of a 22-year old woman, who allegedly died at the hands of her boyfriend, was not news on my Facebook timeline – it was a daily, almost commonplace occurrence. If that wasn’t news on your timeline either, perhaps the #MenAreTrash hashtag was. Since the news broke that Johannesburg business student Karabo Mokoena had been killed, necklaced, acid poured onto her and then burnt beyond recognition, outrage sparked on social media, which further ignited the #MenAreTrash movement.
Over the last few weeks, I have participated in many #MenAreTrash conversations, both online and face-to-face. All of the debates led to both nuanced, forward-thinking reactions as well as backward, mind blowing spews of ignorance and hate – and let me tell you, these were some the mild reactions:
1. As expected, “#NotAllMen” arose
Days after (read minutes) the #MenAreTrash hashtag started trending, thousands of men and women around South Africa began fighting back with the hashtag #NotAllMen which, as it states, explains that not every man is psychologically programmed to think of women as lesser beings and deserving of assault and harassment. Little did these tiny men know that immediately making a movement that speaks of the increased waves of assault upon women by their male counterparts about them and not seeing the greater meaning behind it, reveals more about them than they would truly like. To put it bluntly, it’s not about you, men, and creating victimhood out of this is not only laughable, but simply disrespectful to the very women who have experienced harassment on any level. Similar to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, #AllLivesMatter surfaced, because God forbid something isn’t about white men. Let me say it again for the people in the back: it’s not about you.
2. “Then become a lesbian.”
Erm, okay? Sooooo, the only alternative to not being raped, murdered, cat-called and hugged inappropriately is to change one’s sexual orientation? Out of all of the reactions to #MenAreTrash, this is the one that grates me the most as it so plainly says two things: teaching women to not be raped is more important than teaching men not to rape and secondly, how we as women live our daily lives is expected to change to accommodate the outlook men have on women as unequal members of society. Needless to say, lesbians experience rape culture and misogyny just as often as straight women, if not more often and more aggressively. Simply telling us to change our sexual orientation is ignorant and dangerous.
3. “But you have a boyfriend?”
As hard as it may be to believe, this is often the response received by men and women who are advocating for a less misogynistic society. Yes, I have a boyfriend and yes, I still insist that #MenAreTrash. The people asking this very question have yet to understand one, simple thing – you can want and fight against an anti-women, anti-gay, anti-black society and still be in a loving, committed relationship. The two are not mutually exclusive.
4. “Ugh, feminists.”
Rumblings soon began that the #MenAreTrash movement was yet another feminist rant followed by many people who rolled their ignorant eyes and told us to “chill out, brah, it didn’t happen to you.” Feminism is about breaking down the system of patriarchy and gender binary thinkings. What happened to Karabo Mokoena, Courtney Pieters, Reeva Steenkamp, Hannah Cornelius, Lee Mathews and many others is not a feminist problem, it’s a human problem. Sure, one could try make the ignorant sympathise by asking, “What if that was your sister or mother?”, but why does the victim of the crime even have to be made relatable in that way? They are human beings. Full stop.
5. “But I’d never rape or hurt a woman, so how am I still trash?”
Ah, yes the “nice guy syndrome”. You are polite, you hold the door for us, perhaps you are even honest with a girl about your feelings for her instead of playing her. However, misogyny and harassment doesn’t only come in physical forms. Don’t think you’re trash? Think again. When was the last time you made joke about women belonging in the kitchen? Didn’t you just say that that woman was too fat for that skirt? I’m pretty sure I just heard you whistling at Ayanda as she walked by? Aaaand when you found out your new boss was indeed a woman, you were surprised. Still think you’re innocent?
6. “It didn’t happen to you, so why you mad?”
21st century self-proclaimed feminists, like myself, seem to have been given a bad rep for making “boys will be boys” banter political and uncomfortable (well sorry, we’re not here to cushion your ego), however, if every person in the world simply shrugged their shoulders every time an injustice or wrongdoing was committed, we’d be living in a far more perverse world. Whether it “happened to me” or not, the point is, is that it’s happening, and people like you are the problem.